It’s time to welcome another round of EcoFellows to the team at the Center for EcoTechnology! The EcoFellowship Program is a one-year paid fellowship position to work with CET staff and other EcoFellows to carry out a range of activities related to climate action initiatives and educational programming in western Massachusetts. EcoFellows support CET’s initiatives to assist residents, students, institutions and businesses across the region in ongoing programs in energy efficiency, home energy services, renewable energy, and waste reduction through recycling, reuse and composting. The EcoFellowship also provides professional development opportunities for these recent college graduates, encouraging them to get involved with community outreach, school programs, and other environmental organizations.
Introducing the EcoFellows
I grew up in west Michigan, right next to the lakeshore. While I’ve always loved being outside and exploring the great outdoors, I was not a fan of the Michigan winters. Ready for a new adventure with less snow and more sun, I found myself at the University of Miami!
I quickly began to ascertain the startling implications that climate change has on this coastal city, specifically regarding sea level rise. I always thought that the rising seas would come at a later point in the future, but when I heard about “sunny day” flooding currently occurring in Miami – a phenomenon exacerbated by sea level rise which happens during unique high tide events causing inundation in lower elevated areas – I realized the urgency of the situation and decided to major in Environmental Science.
With this as my major, I had the privilege to study abroad in Ecuador for a semester. I lived on the mainland for one month, where I spent a week in the Amazon, and then traveled to the Galapagos Islands, where I spent three superb months! This opportunity was one of the most enriching, educational experiences I was fortunate to have had during my undergraduate studies. I was able to see firsthand how interconnected the world is, the importance of biodiversity, and experienced new cultures (and even improved my Spanish).
After studying abroad, I was ready to translate my experiences into actions back at home. I joined an organization called EcoReps, which helped educate students on ways they can be more eco-friendly and recycle smarter on campus. It was rewarding to see my peers take the steps to start incorporating small, yet sustainable, changes in their everyday lives.
Post undergraduate, I moved to a small town in the south of Spain and taught English there for several months. I loved teaching, but I was very eager to start applying my degree and pursuing my passion for the environment. When I found CET’s EcoFellowship, I knew I had to apply! It seemed like the perfect fit, and was everything I was looking for to combine my interests in the environment with teaching others about ways they can reduce waste and be more efficient.
I’m really looking forward to all of the professional development opportunities, learning more about the environmental field, and better understanding the science-based solutions that CET implements. I’m still not 100% sure what I want to do with my career, but I’m interested in gaining a deeper understanding of waste diversion; especially food and textile waste.
So far, my experience as an EcoFellow has exceeded my expectations! The work culture at CET is unparalleled. I’m so excited to collaborate with my new colleagues and help make positive impacts regarding sustainable measures within this innovative organization!
I was born and raised in Newton Massachusetts and I graduated from UMass with a degree in philosophy. While some of my friends have known since they were little that they wanted to be doctors, teachers, or engineers, I never knew what I wanted to do, and my time at UMass reflected this uncertainty. I started school undeclared and then put my sights on a business degree, or maybe economics—which changed to computer science, then math, then education, and finally philosophy.
Hopping from major to major was not easy. I felt a lot of pressure to just pick something, and to make sure that that something was practical, so that I could get a job right out of school. In retrospect though, I’m happy I took the winding path. My college experience wasn’t very stable, but neither is the “real world”, and I gained a familiarity with uncertainty that has served me well in my job search and lead me to an interest in the environment, and eventually to CET.
Being perpetually undeclared also forced me to pay close attention to my interests, one of which is good bread. I read about it in a book by Michael Pollan and afterword I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to be a baker. So, the summer after my junior year, I tried being a baker. I worked at a small artisan bakery on a farm smack in the middle of upstate New York. I made a lot of bread and spent a lot of time talking to the bakery owners about their own winding paths. On cold early mornings the head baker would tell me stories about farming in his childhood, and how warmer temperatures have caused much more rain in the area now than there was back in the 70’s and 80’s.
In the past, I’d never really thought about climate change as something current. In my mind it was always something that would affect us later if we didn’t do something. I’d see the repercussions as an old man, and my kids would have to deal with the ill effects. But here at the bakery, I saw that the changes were already underway as higher temperatures caused more water to evaporate into the atmosphere which lead to heavier and more unpredictable rain.
This conversation stuck with me while I was back at school working hard on my job search. I did my best to gain experience, talk to people, look up job applications and titles, and pay attention to what jumped out. What did jump out was mostly clean energy companies and jobs at other environmental organizations, and when I met two of last year’s EcoFellows at a UMass career fair, CET’s EcoFellowship seemed like a natural fit.
I think the Fellowship is a perfect landing spot for me. After years of looking I now know that I want to work with the environment, but true to form, I don’t yet know what I want to do within the industry.
I’m happy to have found a place where I can apply the communications skills I gained in college, learn all about CET and get involved in a lot of different areas. I’m looking forward to working on engaging energy and waste projects, and learning about the work that my co-workers and EcoFellow alumni are doing. I’m also looking forward to doing work that makes a positive impact, and learning about the role I can play in helping people become more efficient and reduce waste. After so much uncertainty, I’m excited to launch an interesting and fulfilling career.